Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Pennsylvania?

What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Pennsylvania’s state statutes define wrongful death as a death resulting from a “wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another.” One way to determine if a wrongful death lawsuit is an option is to consider whether the decedent would have been able to file a personal injury claim if they had survived the incident. If they would have had valid cause for a lawsuit, then their loved ones may be able to bring a wrongful death action.

Through a wrongful death lawsuit, close family members may be able to recover compensation from the liable individuals or entities for the current and future losses they’ve experienced due to the death of their loved one. Sometimes, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed in conjunction with a survival action. While a wrongful death claim covers losses incurred by the family after the decedent’s passing, a survival action allows surviving close family members to seek compensation for the expenses and suffering the decedent endured from the time of their accident until they succumbed to their injuries.

Pennsylvania law strictly limits who can bring a wrongful death claim and when. Although a wrongful death action provides a way for the family members most profoundly impacted by an individual’s untimely passing to recover damages from the responsible party, they may not be able to file a lawsuit directly. In most cases, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate must be the one to take legal action on behalf of the family or estate. However, your legal options will depend on the details of your situation. An experienced Philadelphia wrongful death lawyer can explain what you need to know about these often complex cases.

What Specific Actions Can Result in a Wrongful Death Claim?

A viable wrongful death claim can arise from any situation where a loved one’s death was caused by negligence, violence, neglect, or any other wrongful acts.

A death resulting from any of the following situations may present grounds for filing a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • Medical malpractice
  • Nursing home neglect or abuse
  • Murder
  • Car or truck accident
  • Defective product accident
  • Workplace accident
  • Birth injury

This is not a comprehensive list of all the potential circumstances for wrongful death lawsuits. If you believe your loved one died because of negligence or wrongdoing, you should contact a knowledgeable lawyer immediately to discuss your legal rights and options.

In cases of intentional violence, such as murder, it’s essential to keep in mind that any ongoing criminal case is separate from a wrongful death action. Both criminal and civil actions may be pursued simultaneously. Consulting a trusted legal advisor can help you make certain you are utilizing all the available methods to seek justice for your loved one and family.

Who is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Pennsylvania?

According to Pennsylvania Code, Rule 2202, only the personal representative of the decedent’s estate may file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the individual’s surviving spouse, parents, or children. The personal representative is the individual designated by the decedent’s will as the executor of their estate.

If the decedent died intestate (without a will), the personal representative is an individual appointed by the probate court who is tasked with handling the decedent’s affairs. If the personal representative fails to file a claim within six months, then any person entitled by law to receive damages from a wrongful death action may bring a suit. All compensation recovered through the lawsuit will be split between the eligible family members.

Do Situations Exist Where Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit May Be Disallowed?

Pennsylvania law prevents the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit if the deceased individual received compensation for the same injuries while alive. This rule prevents the occurrence of duplicate recoveries by family members. If the decedent had begun a personal injury lawsuit prior to their passing, but it was still pending, the claimants are still eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The court will consolidate the two claims to ensure only one settlement occurs.

Wrongful death lawsuits must also be filed within Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations. Plaintiffs typically have two years from the date of their loved one’s death to file a claim. However, as time passes, critical evidence may be lost or destroyed. Contacting a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney and beginning the process as soon as possible can be vital to the claim’s success. Prompt action ensures compliance with all filing deadlines and provides ample time for the investigation and collection of supporting evidence for your case.

What Damages Can Be Sought Through a Wrongful Death Claim?

The unexpected death of a close loved one can be emotionally and financially devastating. Nothing can undo the harm and hurt caused by this tragic incident. However, a wrongful death claim can help your family regain their economic footing and ensure the hardship of your loss is not compounded by financial instability.

You may be able to recover compensation for economic and non-economic damages related to your loved one’s passing, including:

  • Funeral and burial costs
  • The loss of future income and services provided by the decedent to the family
  • The loss of companionship, guidance, and support for the children of the decedent
  • The loss of consortium (marital relations and affection) experienced by a surviving spouse
  • The emotional and psychological suffering and pain your family has felt

What Can a Compassionate, Experienced Law Firm Do For You?

It’s hard to overstate the impact that the sudden loss of a loved one can have on a family. If the passing of your family member was due to a negligent accident or intentional act, you may have the right to seek compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. Our skilled attorneys at Villari, Giannone & Matteo P.C. have helped many families navigate Pennsylvania’s complex wrongful death laws to recover the damages they deserve. To learn how we can assist you, contact our law firm today at 610-609-8477 to schedule a free case evaluation.

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